I struggle enough with the idea of writing an album; the idea that a person has the capacity to write not only one, but an entire collection of songs that can evoke emotions, prompt sing-a-longs and simply work together as a collection amazes me. Throw in debilitating tendinitis – inflammation of a tendon – leaving a songwriter unable to write, and in my head it’s a no go. Yet while I oftentimes find myself questioning whether a hangover is reason enough to put off writing, Isobel Anderson managed to write an entire album while tackling tendinitis.
The result is CHALK/FLINT: a defiant, beautiful piece of sonic art. Having stored the ideas for the entire record in her mind, before her wrists got better and she could begin writing on the computer, the outcome is a record that is so deeply considered. While a tone of ethereality covers the album as a whole – particularly on tracks like ‘Effortless Pain’ and ‘Chalky White’ which sit side by side mid-album – there’s an honesty in CHALK/FLINT. Take ‘04 4284,’ for example, which sees Isobel tackle issues of body autonomy and abortion rights in Ireland. While her soaring vocals may giving the track a celestial feel, what Isobel tackles is much more real: and in lyrics like “this is my body / you don’t decide what’s inside” and “There are many others who have taken this journey like me,” she faces a difficult issue with both power and grace.
There’s a nostalgia about CHALK/FLINT, too. Although recorded in her adopted home of Belfast, the record was written in her hometown, Sussex – and nods are made throughout. From the unimpressed lyrics of ‘Motherchild’ – “all of this town is gentrified, it’s all cafes and cars” – to the album title, which is inspired by the chalk and flint landscape, to sonic nods to the cliffs and sea air of Sussex, Isobel’s inclusion of her hometown proves her songwriting to go far deeper than just words and music. CHALK/FLINT is more of a symphony than an album.